Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Dad Revolution

By guest bloggers Kim Hall and Anne Guagliardo from the family life class.
(Part one of two)

Over the past few decades, women have begun placing more emphasis on the advancement and progression of their career. These women often assume the husband and having children will eventually follow suit. Since the feminist movement, the number of these high achieving women has increased drastically, which has caused a simultaneous increase in the number of childless high achieving career women. According to David Buss in The Evolution of Desire, women most often seek male mates who are more achieving than themselves. Thus, the selection pool for the high achieving career women is limited as there are fewer men available. Even the businesswomen who end up finding a mate often are childless due to their overwhelming schedules. Sylvia Ann Hewlett in Creating a Life found high achieving women are continuously increasing, which, in turn, increases the number of childless couples.

A possible solution may be a role reversal of the men and women. High achieving women must begin looking for men who are not as high achieving and would be more likely to consider a majority of the childcare duties. If more men would be willing to take on the nurturer role and let the woman become the primarily breadwinner, the number of high-achieving women with children would likely rise. Ideally, if this role swap of husband and wife occurred at the same rate as the increase of the high achieving women, most women in the workplace would be able to ‘have it all’, the job and the children. Some fathers have already started to take on this role of nurturer. The career sacrifices of these men in order to raise their children have created a movement in a positive direction.

Although stay-at-home is naturally followed by the word mom, a slow, steady stream of acceptance towards fathers who choose to raise their children in the home has brought the alternate possibility of child-raising to light. By March 2002, there were 189,000 children with stay-at-home dads, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Although this amount seems completely over-shadowed by the whopping 11 million stay-at-home moms, there has been an apparent increase in this recent role reversal over the past decade. There has been an 18% rise of stay-at-home dads within eight years, from 1994 to 2002. With this sudden revolution of societal norms, these men are faced with a constant battle for “acceptance and understanding in a stay-at-home mom world.”

The traditional roles of women and men are thrown out the window with this rise of nurturing fathers and ruthless businesswomen, but one must wonder what has caused this reversal of societal norms. One possibility is the repercussions of feminist movement. As women attempted to gain a foothold in the ‘man’s world’ and quest for equality, men were forced to react to this increase in competition and initial role reversal. The slow movement of gender equality in the business world pushed towards egalitarianism in all areas of societal life, such as in the home. With more commonality of women in the workplace, a prioritization of the male career seemed highly illogical. Instead, the family must carefully choose the best option for the entire family, which is increasingly the stay-at-home dad as in the United States where two out of five women out earn their male counterparts.

Another spark for stay-at-home dads may have been the alteration of the public view of these men. Before 1980s, stay-at-home dads or at least the acknowledgement of them were a rarity in pop cultural. At least until 1983, when “Mr. Mom” starring Michael Keaton made stay-at-home fathers more well-known. Although it featured a “bumbling dad with virtually no clue about how to raise children” and put an almost negative spin on these men, the movie created an admission to stay-at-home dads as a career choice. Ten years later, “Mrs. Doubtfire” shed a softer light on the issue of men raising their children. Even more recently, television shows such as “Daddio” and “My Wife and Kids” show an even more acceptable version of the stay-at-home dad. Whether this alteration in the public view helped create the cultural movement or the media reflected the change at the time may never be known, but either way the increased acceptance is notable in all areas of today’s society.

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